Suddenly a sign of life bumble-buzzes from the bench, a quiet thumping in double time.
Up goes a lift in the air, a signal the hand is rising again, and…
“Bring it o…”
But the Master never finishes his sentence.
Instead, he feel-hears, through the drippy clumps of cochlea on either side of him, that lightning whir of terror that brings a new head, ambling into efficient, mechanical place like some horrid Ferris Wheel.
The wrapping of tight young fingers soon follows, ensorcelling his tongue with promises of the afterlife.
There follows a long, wet sound of ripping.
Then the whir again; but this time, Hainish elbows himself up, crawling on his hands and knees across the strong Roman cobbles to the bench and dragging the Master’s crumpled grey-hoodied form with him, by the hood scruff.
The man on the bench raises up, the newspaper with spy holes cut in crossword still hanging, obscuring his face in ode; it renders him a rather fetching chip shop bride.
“Come here, Hainish,” the man barks so softly, stiffly, reaching with light hands and light words for the young man, who comes to him on dusty knees.
Hainish watches as the man reaches down to put one of the now half red, half green apples in the Master’s mouth, shoving down so the blood slick teeth grab the fruit’s hard flesh.
“A little closer…” the man cajoles, patting the bench seat, then placing a hand gently on Hainish’s blond head.
Through the slots of words cut in the newsprint, there is a hint of brilliant peridot eye; below that oculus, a cheeky right-sided grin. He says, in a voice gravelly and sweet and sleep-ripe as a lamb’s, “Really Koschei… I have a derby you could wear. A red tie, too.”